Anime Reporter mixes/stirs/blends(?) things up a bit, bringing you some manga coverage on this fine Saturday. As the title suggests, we’ll be taking a look at Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 01 (Chapters 1-5 plus a sprinkling of one-shots), written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. Food Wars is primarily a humorous series focusing, as you may have guessed, on the preparation of food but it throws in copious helpings of ecchi imagery so anyone not entirely comfortable with barely obscured nudity is probably better off sating their cuisine-based manga desires with Toriko.
If you’re not entirely sure where you stand on copious amounts of near-nudity, or just feel like giving the plot a chance to shine, by all means, press onwards.
Yukihira Soma is a teenager cooking up a storm at his father’s humble little restaurant. Like his father, he’s always trying out new flavours and combinations, determined to push the boundaries of cuisine and discover interesting new tastes and recipes. Soma’s go-to dish seems to involve squid combined with peanut butter, but it seems like we can expect even more bizarre concoctions in the future. Unfortunately, as in so many underdog teen stories, a large corporation is looking to muscle the Yukihira restaurant out of business so they can build something large and corporationy on the land.
Soma is defiant to the end, but his father suddenly decides to close up shop for a while and do some cooking around the world for a few years. Meanwhile, Soma is to be sent off to Totsuki Tea Ceremony and Cooking Academy, the incredibly elite culinary school which takes pride in only allowing 10% of its students to emerge as graduates.
Soma’s humble restaurant experience and his eccentric attitude to food immediately marks him out as the number one weirdo applying for a place in the school, though he’s nonetheless determined to graduate at the top spot and finally surpass his father’s own skills. He’ll have to compete with the gold standard of the culinary youth, most notably Nakiri Erina, the granddaughter of the school’s principal and someone already internationally recognised as an unparalleled genius when it comes to food. Naturally, she and Soma form an instant dislike as he’s determined to gain her approval while she’s determined not to let him have it.
The plot for the first volume is pretty straightforward, establishing the theme for the series and some of the challenges our hero will have to overcome. The emphasis is definitely on humour here, with ecchi elements really only entering at specific moments. The tasting of food is accompanied by a visual fantasy, designed to reflect the overall sensation and experience of tasting a dish. With Erina, these images are usually a bizarre mix of mismatched scenes and objects to suggest how much she dislikes a flavour. Something odd seems to happen every time someone tastes Soma’s food, the representation of flavour includes a lot of suggestive nudity, whether the flavour is good or bad, and, when the flavour is good, reactions can only be described as orgasmic.
While this is the case for both male and female characters, there are a lot more instances of female characters tasting food and having vivid experiences as a result. Unlike other ecchi series, the main character, Soma, is in no way obsessed with sex himself, focusing entirely on the world of cooking. As such, these food-fuelled fantasies seem to have little purpose other than fanservice, though they could certainly be used to provide a more imaginative and energetic feeling to the competitive cooking theme.
Erina’s character also shows a lot of potential for development, seeming more complex than the customary shonen rival and with more room for growth. Supporting characters abound, though Soma and his goal of becoming the top chef at Totsuki are taking precedence for now. Like many shonen protagonists, Soma is light-hearted but fiercely determined and boasts an unusual skill that those around him can’t seem to comprehend.
Food Wars starts off on strong footing as a humorous and entertaining shonen series. Time will tell if it’s to be seen as a funny tale of enjoyable characters in the vein of One Piece or if it’s set to become just another venue for ogling mostly naked pictures with a story of some kind attached *cough* Witch Hunter *cough*. For now though, it most definitely has the potential to boast a great storyline and characters. Here’s hoping!
… You couldn’t see it, but I raised my glass (coffee cup) on the “here’s hoping” bit. You know, like a toast. Because, food…?
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is currently available in the UK and Ireland from Viz Media, and there’s more where that came from!
71% – “Appetising” – Food Wars! Volume 01 does what it’s supposed to, sets the scene nicely, provides a healthy dose of entertainment and promises the possibility of some great storytelling to come. Stick around and find out if Volume 02 follows suit, or just leans on the ecchi market.
… I am totally going to run out of food puns between this series and Toriko…